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What Are the Different Types of Abnormal Pregnancy?

By Lumara Lee
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Pregnancy is a natural process, but sometimes things can go wrong. Some different types of abnormal pregnancy include pregnancy failure, ectopic, and molar pregnancy. Problems with the placenta may also occur, which can be fatal to the fetus.

It is estimated that 10-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage or pregnancy failure. Fetal abnormalities are the most common causes of miscarriage, but there are other contributing factors. Trauma to the pregnant woman and certain medications can cause pregnancy failure. Heavy activity can also bring about a miscarriage.

In a normal pregnancy, the embryo attaches to the endometrial lining of the womb. One type of abnormal pregnancy occurs when the embryo attaches outside the womb. This is called an ectopic pregnancy. Most ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tubes, but they can also occur in other sites such as the abdomen, cervix, or ovary. This type of abnormal pregnancy is always fatal to the fetus because the uterus is the only location that provides the proper conditions for a developing embryo.

An ectopic pregnancy may cause bleeding and pelvic pain. Surgery to remove the fetus is the usual treatment. Sometimes, there are no symptoms unless a rupture occurs. Hemorrhaging accompanied by severe pain are the usual symptoms of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. A rupture can cause maternal death but is rare if treatment is provided before a rupture occurs.

A molar pregnancy occurs when tissue that normally would become a fetus develops abnormally and becomes a mole. This can be caused by the fertilization of an undeveloped egg by a sperm. The resultant tissue cannot develop normally, and can grow large enough to fill the uterus.

Another type of molar pregnancy is caused when two sperms fertilize one egg. In this kind of abnormal pregnancy, the placenta develops into a mole. Any fetal tissue that might develop will have severe defects. The woman with a molar pregnancy may experience the signs of a normal pregnancy in addition to unusual symptoms, such as a strange feeling of discomfort in the pelvis and vaginal discharge that resembles grapes. Treatment for a molar pregnancy is removal of the abnormal tissue.

Placental abruption is a condition that occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterus before the baby is born. The placenta is the organ that provides the fetus with nourishment. In its most severe and rare form, placental abruption may cause fetal death.

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Discussion Comments

By anon989052 — On Feb 17, 2015

Maternal and child care is a challenge in third world countries whereby the traditional point of view has significantly contributed to the deaths of mother and child.

By serenesurface — On Sep 05, 2014

My sister had an issue with placenta when she was pregnant. Her placenta was in a different position. It was in front of the baby, when it's supposed to be in the back.

The issue with this is that during natural birth, the baby should come first and the placenta later. So the baby is not cut off from oxygen and nutrition until he or she is born. If the placenta is in the front, it comes out first, leaving the baby without oxygen. If the baby is not delivered quickly at that time, it could be detrimental.

When doctors realized this, they urged her to have a c-section. But a few weeks before delivery, the placenta somehow moved into the right position and she could go ahead with natural birth. It was amazing how that happened.

By bear78 — On Sep 04, 2014

@stoneMason-- Of course, there are. Genetic abnormalities can occur where the child may have physical or mental problems but will still survive.

Aside from these, the mother may also have health issues that make the pregnancy high risk. These don't qualify as normal pregnancies. Some examples are preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy and gestational diabetes. These are conditions that usually reverse after the mother gives birth but can be very dangerous for the child and mother if they go untreated. Medications and close control by a doctor are necessary.

By stoneMason — On Sep 04, 2014

These are all conditions that end the pregnancy or cause miscarriage. Are there also abnormal pregnancies where the pregnancy continues but where there is a high risk for the baby and sometimes the mother? Can anyone give some examples?

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